Say this for James Dolan, the head of Madison Square Garden and Cablevision: He has a lot of passion (as the NBA Commissioner sheepishly told David Letterman earlier this week).
Unfortunately, say this, too: He will never win the next How to Win Friends and Influence People Award.
Dolan has been Public Enemy No. 1 in the eyes of many New York Knicks fans since he acquired control of the team in 1999. The Knicks have been to the NBA Finals a grand total of once, and you can count their other highlights on the fingers of one hand. Dolan gave us Isiah Thomas, one of the worst leaders in recent NBA history, and has presided over the train wreck of a once-proud franchise.
Recently, Dolan sank to yet another low, when he blasted a self-proclaimed, longtime New York Knicks fan for sending him a mean-spirited email. The man accused Dolan of failing to revive his beloved basketball team. Dolan responded with a bizarre, meaner-spirited email.
According to The New York Times: “The confrontation began when Irving Bierman, 72, sent an email to Dolan’s personal account with the subject line, ‘I have been a knicks fan since 1952:'” The man all but begged Dolan to sell the team.
The Times added: “Dolan, in an email dated Jan. 23, called Bierman, ‘a sad person’ and wondered whether Bierman was an alcoholic.”
“‘You most likely have made your family miserable,’” wrote Dolan, who finished the note with a suggestion that Bierman start following the Nets ‘because the Knicks don’t want you.’”
Dolan’s response reeks of arrogance and outright foolishness. Team owners should not engage in pissing matches with fans under any circumstances. While the owner will have the last word in the war of words, the fan will always win in the court of public opinion.
Dolan should know that by now.
More foolishness: Dolan should also recognize that the Knicks, one of the worst teams this season in the NBA, need all of the fans they can find. The Knicks are so awful that Dolan should stand in front of Madison Square Garden and thank every patron at a Knicks game.
Likely, Dolan will not face any reprisals. The NBA has officially shrugged off the matter. No doubt, some other sports outrage will come along to make us forget this New York story. But Dolan should not feel as if he has gotten away with something. Knicks fans won’t soon forget his callous treatment of one of their own. The New York media will also remind the world that Dolan acts boorishly under pressure.
It would be nice if Dolan could learn from this lamentable chapter and now exhibit personal growth. Yeah, right.
Billionaires seldom admit, much less learn from, their errors.
Dolan has never had to worry about making a living. His father, Charles Dolan, founded Cablevision, one of the most prominent cable empires in the United States. And when was the last time a cable TV company reached out to comfort any of its customers?
It almost seems like the saga of a Doonesbury cartoon, in which the blustery sports-team owner feuds publicly and ludicrously with an outraged fan. The strip could keep up the action for weeks, as the two sides bicker and bicker.
But Dolan will never win. His team will have to win a championship for the fans to forget about his team’s record of failure. He should remember that the buck stops with him.